CHICAGO — For Anthony Davis, it means a lot of things. Like snow.
“I don’t get to see the snow as much now. Me and my cousins would go outside and have snowball fights almost every day after school,” Davis said. “I kinda miss that.”
And deep-dish pizza.
“Giordano’s pizza is my go-to,” Davis said.
For Patrick Beverley, it means grit.
“My Chicago grit goes everywhere with me,” Beverley said. “It’s something, when I get on the court, I try to represent. That’s just a part of my game.”
For a handful of players — Davis, Beverley in the Skills Challenge, Miami’s Kendrick Nunn in Rising Stars, Detroit’s Derrick Rose (who had to pull out of the Skills Challenge due to injury) — the NBA All-Star weekend of events is a chance to come back home, to the city where they grew up and learned to play the game.
“Really excited to be back home, really excited to see my friends, the high schools I went to,” Beverley said. “I’m really excited to smell the Chicago air. I’m so happy to be back home right now…
“It’s an emotion I really can’t explain. It’s surreal to me, I find myself trying to pinch myself. I think the last All-Star Game (in Chicago) was 32 years ago, so I wasn’t even born yet. You know me, I represent Chicago, the grit of Chicago, I’m just fortunate to be able to represent the city the right way.”
“It’s good to be back home, spend time with my family, my friends…” Davis said. “Just trying to stay warm. But to get back here and play in front of the fans in the place I grew up, the place I had my first big-time game, the McDonalds game at UC (United Center). It’s been great to get back here and re-live some of the high school memories I had here in Chicago.”
Davis didn’t attend one of Chicago’s basketball powers. Kind of the opposite. He went to Perspectives Charter School — which didn’t even have a gym on campus at the time. They played at a church nearby. Davis entered school as a 6’2″ guard who was relatively unremarkable, but he grew 8 inches in 18 months, bringing those guard skills with him, and suddenly he was on the top of everyone’s recruiting lists.
Davis could have transferred to any of Chicago’s power schools, like Rose’s Simeon Career Academy, but he stayed at Perspectives.
“I was just being loyal, it was my junior year and I didn’t want to leave and have to sit out a year, so I kinda just stayed around and tried to stick it out,” Davis said. “My dad always gave me the saying ‘no matter where you are they’ll find you,’ and I kind of took that to heart and kept doing what I was doing, working hard, and eventually someone would come see me. Then Coach Cal [Kentucky’s John Calipari] came to one of my games and the rest is history.”
Chicago influenced all of their games.
For Beverley, he said it was another Chicago guy, Will Bynum, who served as a mentor. Plus, when Beverley was in elementary and heading into middle school, it was the Michael Jordan Bulls era.
“There were a lot of parades at that time, the city was on fire. Literally on fire,” Beverley said. “Seeing all that made you want to go out and play basketball. I guess that was every kid’s dream.”
When Davis was having his growth spurt and starting to emerge in high school, Derrick Rose was drafted and took over the NBA — right there in Chicago.
“Derrick Rose is still one of my favorite players to watch,” Davis said. “He was the guy every guy underneath him looked up to. The things he did for the city, and him getting drafted to the Bulls and that whole run, it was just inspiring for all of us.”
All-Star weekend is not a time Davis is going to get to chill on the couch with family and friends. The games, the charity events, the sponsor events — and not to mention a few parties — pull the players in the events a lot of directions.
“I haven’t been able to take it all in, I’ve been running around,” Davis said.
But they are still home. They get to smell the Chicago air, see some friends.
And maybe throw in a slice of pizza.